Jerome David Kern (born January 1, 1885
, Died November 11, 1945.)
American Composer and songwriter who composed over 1000 songs for 117
shows and films between 1905 and 1945. Kern is considered one of the architects of the American musical- creating a format different from English operetta, with melodies that didn't sound like European songs. He worked to integrate songs into the action of the story. Over the course of his career, he worked with lyricists P. G. Wodehouse, Johnny Mercer, Oscar Hammerstein II, and others. His best known score is the classic of American musical theatre, 1927's Show Boat.
In 1935, Kern signed with RKO Pictures. He wrote songs for stars like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
The film adaptation of his musical Roberta featured "I Won't Dance" and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." Swingtime (1936) featured Astaire singing the Oscar-winning "The Way You Look Tonight," and "A Fine Romance", with Rogers joining him on "Pick Yourself Up (Start All Over Again)"
Other notable songs:
When Kern died in 1945
, a biopic
was rushed into production (as both a tribute
and as a quick way to create another
musical at MGM
). Robert Walker
played Jerome Kern in 1946
's Til the Clouds Roll By
, which featured song after song (arranged by Kay Thompson
, of course) from MGM's stable of talent: Kathryn Grayson
, Judy Garland
, Lena Horne
, Frank Sinatra
, Angela Lansbury
, Dinah Shore
In addition to his contribution to American musical theatre, Jerome Kern made a lesser known contribution to
American copyright law. In Fred Fisher v. Dillingham (298 F. 145 S.D.N.Y., 1924), Judge
Learned Hand found the Jerome Kern's "Kalua" infringed the
composition "Dardanella" by means of an eight-note figure in
the accompaniment. (The judge admitted that Kern's melody was original, but he ruled that parts of songs were copyrightable. Kern was fined $250 (the minimum)
for copying the bass line). The case is cited in lawsuits ranging from disputes over sampling in hip hop records to
Microsoft's Appeal before the 9th Circuit Court in Sun Microsystems' java lawsuit.
Bernstein, Joel. "Jerome Kern: 1885-1945." Steven Lewis' Bing Crosby Internet Museum. <http://www.kcmetro.cc.mo.us/pennvalley/biology/lewis/crosby/kern.htm> 5 July 2001
Townsend, George. The Perry Como Discography Website. <http://home.istar.ca/~townsend/_private/composer/Kern_Jer.htm> 5 July 2001
Big Bands Database, <http://nfo.net> 5 July 2001